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PACAF Head: China Risks 'Disaster' With Aircraft Intercepts

By    |   Wednesday, 13 September 2023 08:04 AM EDT

China's military pilots are risking a "disaster" by repeatedly conducting unsafe intercepts of U.S. military planes flying in international airspace in the Pacific, according to U.S. Air Force Gen. Kenneth S. Wilsbach, the commander of Pacific Air Forces.

"All we're asking them to do is just execute safely and professionally," the general told reporters at AFA's Air, Space, and Cyber Conference convention this week, reports Air and Space Forces Magazine.

China's military, he added, has the "right to intercept, just like we do when we have aircraft flying inside of our air identification zones. So do it safely, do it professionally, and everybody will be OK. We won't have a miscalculation."

Wilsbach noted that U.S. aircraft often fly close to China and that it's "not uncommon for U.S. military aircraft to be intercepted 10 times a day."

The intercepts, which occur in international airspace are typically safe, he stressed, but there are incidents that the Pentagon has called dangerous.

And while the U.S. and its allies have publicly identified some of the more risky occurrences, China is "not willing to have a discussion … they blame it on us," said Wilsbach.

China says most of the South China Sea, where U.S. surveillance planes such as the USAF RC-135 fly, is its territory and blames the United States for the intercepts.

"Let's just get to the gist of the problem, which is what they're saying is they don't want us to exercise the same right that they have to be in international airspace," said Wilsbach.

The United States doesn't have an issue with its aircraft being intercepted, said Wilsbach, noting that NORAD aircraft often intercepts Russian jets in the Alaska Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ), which extends beyond U.S. airspace.

The general did not say the Chinese aviators' skills are a safety concern, but he does not think "any of them have prowess like an American fighter pilot" and that they are "not in the same category as what we are trained to."

Still, the United States is concerned about the Chinese military's actions because of a lack of high-level communication, as military-to-military channels have been frozen since last November when Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin met his then-Chinese counterpart.

Tensions in the region have grown since that meeting, including with a Chinese jet coming within a few yards of U.S. Air Force RC-135 over the South China Sea in December. In February, an F-22 Raptor shot down a Chinese surveillance balloon after it crossed the continental United States.

American officials are stressing they want communication between the two sides to avoid an escalation of hostilities.

"It's really important that the most senior folks can talk to each other as quickly as possible when something happens, so Secretary Austin keeps asking for that," Dr. Mara Karlin, who is performing the duties of deputy undersecretary of defense for policy, told a Defense Writers Group Event in August.

But experts note that the opaque nature of decisions made by the Chinese Communist Party and the country's military under leader Xi Jinping is making it difficult to judge China's intentions.

China, however, said that U.S. sanctions are stopping a meeting between Austin and Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu, but the Chinese Defense Ministry says direct military-to-military talks haven't stopped.

Sandy Fitzgerald

Sandy Fitzgerald has more than three decades in journalism and serves as a general assignment writer for Newsmax covering news, media, and politics. 

© 2024 Newsmax. All rights reserved.


Newsfront
China's military pilots are risking a "disaster" by repeatedly conducting unsafe intercepts of U.S. military planes flying in international airspace in the Pacific, according to U.S. Air Force Gen. Kenneth S. Wilsbach, the commander of Pacific Air Forces.
pacaf, kenneth s. wilsbach, china, military, aircraft, pacific, international, airspace, ccp
545
2023-04-13
Wednesday, 13 September 2023 08:04 AM
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